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This article was published 27/2/2019 (452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The simple act of turning on a tap to get a cool glass of water was enough to fire up Meg Boehm and Eric Jasysyn’s idea for change.
The two students from the Seven Oaks Met School are hosting a benefit concert and fashion show Friday at 7 p.m. at the Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre to join forces with the community of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation to get clean drinking water in every home.
Shoal Lake 40, located about 200 kilometres east of Winnipeg on the Manitoba-Ontario border, is the source for Winnipeg’s drinking water, but the community itself doesn’t have a water treatment plant and has been under a boil-water advisory since 1997.
Boehm and Jasysyn are mobilizing forces and resources, from their peers right up to government leaders, with their eyes on one prize: getting construction started on a long-needed water treatment plant in the community.
"It’s shocking. This is where we get our water from and they can’t drink their own water. That’s pretty alarming," said Boehm, a Grade 11 student.
Students from the Met School — a high school which operates under the Big Picture Learning philosophy with project-based learning and work-place internships combined with academics — recently saw a documentary about Shoal Lake 40’s plight. Boehm and Jasysyn decided to team up to combine their passions and make them purposeful.
"We live in Canada, where we are supposed to have rights and freedoms, and they don’t have access to clean water. That’s really heartbreaking — not being able to go to a tap or a water fountain to get a drink of water or always worrying if this is safe to drink or am I going to get sick from this," said Jasysyn, a Grade 12 student. "We realized that a lot of people in Winnipeg don’t know this is happening in our country."
Indigenous Services Canada reports long-term drinking-water advisories in 61 First Nations in Canada and four in Manitoba including Tataskweyak, God’s Lake, Wuskwi Sipihk and Pinaymootang.
All proceeds from the event, approved by Shoal Lake 40 leaders, will go toward a community-directed purchase such as home filtration systems, which would bring some temporary relief to residents. A group from the Seven Oaks Met School visited Shoal Lake on Feb. 23 to collaborate with community members.
Lorne Redsky, a Shoal Lake 40 community member, will lead the opening prayer at Friday’s show and speak to the crowd about Shoal Lake’s plight.
The event is a thesis project for Boehm and Jasysyn, but it’s also much more than that.
"We want to get that water treatment plant built," Jasysyn said.
At Friday’s show, Boehm and Jasysyn will launch their petition, called Shoal Lake 40 First Nation Water Treatment Plant Construction, calling on the federal and provincial governments to take action on building a water treatment plant. An end date for the petition has not yet been set.
"The show doesn’t stop after the show. We’re hoping to get as many signatures as possible," Boehm said. "I think the greatest outcome from this would be actually having change."
The fashion show will include 27 local models from Seven Oaks Met and Maples Met schools and West Kildonan Collegiate. Clothing featured in the show will be from local designers Anna Lang Bridal, Eph Apparel, Loka Boutique, Mad About Style Boutique, Boutique Anya, Winnipeg Team Outfitters, Hush Collection, Sk8 Skates and Cree-Ations.
Student performers from Seven Oaks Met and Maples Met schools, Garden City and Maples collegiates such as Phoebe Pedrina, Veronica Sok and Jasysyn will be showcased in the concert.
Construction was completed on a 24-kilometre road, called Freedom Road, that connects Shoal Lake 40 with the Trans-Canada Highway. The community previously needed a ferry or a dangerous ice road to connect it to the mainland. It had been turned into an island following construction in 1919 of the aqueduct that brings water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. Lack of a road had been a barrier in the past to building a water treatment plant.
Tickets for the show are $15 and can be purchased through Eventbrite. For more information on the petition, email email@example.com.
Updated on Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 1:06 PM CST: Corrects school information